Last week we saw Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings and Malignant. Shang-Chi was every bit entertaining and full of thrills, and of course, Awkwafina was splendidly brilliant. Malignant on the other hand, was a disappointment because I came in with high hopes. Every year, just around Halloween time, I look forward to the release of horror movies and the trailers for Malignant had me hooked. However, the movie simply did not deliver, and I fell asleep within the first 30 minutes. Even my husband Michael, who is not a fan of horror movies (and I somehow convince him each year to watch at least two with me), found it terribly boring. Maybe if we saw Malignant in the theater like we did Shang-Chi, the experience might have been a bit better. Now, I need to find Michael something new and scary to watch. Poor guy (haha)!
Moving from movies to watch or avoid, let's jump right into what we're cooking this week.
Lentil and Potato Croquettes with Yogurt Tartar Sauce
This is a vegetarian version of my grandmother’s ground beef croquettes. I’ve used a combination of mashed potatoes and lentils to build the body of the croquette and then made it extra crispy by tossing it twice in a breading mixture of panko breadcrumbs, chia seeds, and sesame seeds. I prefer tangier dips to go along with crispy and fried foods, and the tanginess of this yogurt-based tartar sauce is a fantastic partner to the croquettes!
When developing recipes, I try to look for ways to save time, shortcuts make all our lives easy, and I'm all for them. I know boiling and mashing the potatoes the night before could save a good 30 minutes in the kitchen but when I tested the recipe, I noticed that mashed potatoes when cooled showed very poor binding capacity - the croquettes wouldn't hold together nicely. When I used warm mashed potatoes (freshly boiled) or reheated cold mashed potatoes (by steaming them over a boiling water bath), the croquettes were again easy to shape. Clearly heat had something to do here.
Why was the temperature so influential in shaping these potato-based croquettes? I got a clue from pommes aligot, a dish where warm boiled potatoes are mixed quickly with cheese and dairy to form a viscous mass that is easily stretched with a spoon. The shaping of the croquettes benefits from the same principle. As potatoes cook in the boiling water, the temperature rises, and the hydration of the starch increases (aka starch gelatinization) and the starch molecules are way better at binding and holding the croquettes together.
Be gentle when shaping the croquettes, watch my Reel to get a sense of how much pressure to apply. If you press too hard, the croquette will fall apart easily.
Enjoy the crispiliciousness of the croquettes and if you're like me, it is okay to turn the "Do Not Disturb Me While I Eat" sign on.
Lentil and Potato Croquettes with Yogurt Tartar Sauce
The Cook’s Notes
Russet potatoes are a safe bet for many potato recipes. If you can’t find them look for high starch/aka starchy/floury potatoes to make the croquettes. The higher percentage of starch and low moisture content in them makes these potatoes denser, and when they cook you won’t end up with empty hollow spaces that would otherwise show up with the waxy type of potatoes (they have less starch, are less dense, and contain more water, as a result when they cook, the water evaporates leaving large “heartbreaking” gaps).
Salted Water – Every cook uses a different ratio of salt to water when boiling vegetables (and pasta). I add 1 Tbsp of fine sea salt to every 4 ½ cups/1 L of water. To make the water boil faster, put a lid on top, it will help you reach the boiling point quickly.
If you decide to use pre-cooked lentils to save time, you will need about 3 ½oz/100g
You can use labneh instead of Greek yogurt but keep an eye out for saltiness. You might also need to cut back on the amount of lemon juice (start with 1 tsp).
If the dip is too sour due to the age of the yogurt (older yogurt will taste sourer), add less lemon juice or add a little sugar to offset the sourness
Remember to rinse the preserved lemon peels with running tap water before you use them to get rid of the excess salt from the brine.
Makes 16 croquettes/4 servings
For the Croquettes
1 ¼ lb/570g Russet potatoes
Fine sea salt
¼ cup/50g black (Beluga) or green (Le Puy lentils) lentils
1 fresh green chilli such as Bird’s eye, jalapeno or serrano (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red pepper flakes such as Aleppo, Maras, or Urfa
1 ½ cups/90g panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup/45g chia seeds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 large eggs
Enough extra grapeseed or extra-virgin olive oil for shallow frying (I used less than ½ cup/120ml)
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan filled with enough salted water to cover them by at least 1 inch/2.5cm. Place a lid over the saucepan and bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and let cook until the potatoes are completely tender but not mushy, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and let sit until cool enough to handle. Avoid cooling them all the way to room temperature, they should be warm. Peel the potatoes and discard the skin. Mash the warm potatoes in a large mixing bowl with a fork or masher to remove any lumps.
While the potatoes cook, prepare the lentils. Add the lentils to a medium saucepan filled with enough salted water to cover them by at least 1 inch/2.5cm. Place a lid over the saucepan and bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and let cook until the lentils are completely tender but not mushy, 30 to 60 minutes. Lentil cooking time will vary depending on the age of the lentils. Drain the lentils through a fine-mesh sieve, rinse under running tap water, and add the lentils to the potatoes.
Add the green chilli, cilantro, garlic, garam masala, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and fold to combine. Divide the mixture by weight into 16 equal parts/about 3 Tbsp of the mixture and shape it into a 3 inch/7.5cm wide cigar-shaped log. Place the logs on a plate or cutting board.
In a separate large bowl, dry whisk the panko, chia seeds, sesame seeds, black pepper, and ½ tsp salt.
In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the eggs.
Work with one log at a time. Toss one log gently in the dry mixture to coat well. Dip the log into whisked eggs and roll carefully with a fork to coat well, tapping gently on the sides to get rid of any excess egg. Transfer the log back to the dry mix and toss to coat well. Gently shake to remove any excess of the panko mixture and place on a tray or plate. Prepare all the remaining logs in the same manner.
Preheat the oven to 200F/95C.
Line a baking sheet or plate with a wire rack.
Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a 12 inch/ cm cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Fry 4 to 6 breaded logs at a time until they turn golden brown and crisp, turning them over with a fork or spatula, for a total of 6 to 8 minutes. If at any moment, the oil gets too hot, lower the heat. Transfer the cooked logs (aka croquettes) to the baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Cook the remaining logs in the same manner. Serve hot or warm with the sauce (recipe follows)
For the Yogurt Tartar Sauce
1 cup/240g plain unsweetened Greek Yogurt or labneh (See The Cook’s Notes)
4 cornichons, drained and minced
1 Tbsp chopped preserved lemon peel (See The Cook’s Notes)
1 tsp drained capers
2 Tbsp chopped chives
2 Tbsp chopped dill
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp ground black pepper
Fine sea salt
Mix the yogurt, cornichons, preserved lemon, capers, garlic, chives, dill, parsley, lemon juice, and black pepper together in a small bowl. Taste and season with salt. You can make this a day ahead of time, just store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.